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Lawmakers grill vaccine officials on ‘monopoly’

Republika

Senators earlier this week questioned vaccination program officials on why there were vaccine procurement delays as well as why the national government seemed determined to control the acquisition of Covid19 shots.


Presenting a united front, senators also asked what was preventing the government from allowing private companies and local governments to provide their people with immunization in order to catch up with the country’s Southeast Asian neighbors in the race to secure a supply of vaccines.


“Why does the national government want to monopolize the purchase [of vaccines]?” asked Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto during the meeting of the Senate committee of the whole. “Why not just let LGUs and the private sector do their own purchases?”


This echoed Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s own statement asking why the government is “making it difficult” for the private sector to get supplies on their own.


Local government units that want to buy their own vaccines are required to sign a tripartite agreement with the national government and the drugmaker, which needs to obtain an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. This same process applies to private companies that want to immunize their employees. However, Recto said that the need for government intervention in such deals is merely a “regulatory issue.”


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned why government imposed such a rule that would give rise to a “monopoly”. FDA director general Eric Domingo responded, saying that no pharmaceutical firm’s vaccine candidate was ready to be registered for commercial distribution, as they were authorized only for emergency use.


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